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June 21, 2005

The Bolton Charade

Robert Novak explains it all:

All this is a charade. Opposition to Bolton has become a party matter, where his possible Democratic supporters have been brought to heel. The cloture vote to end the filibuster scheduled for 6 p.m. today is unlikely to collect the necessary 60 votes. That effectively would end the confirmation struggle. President Bush then would face the dilemma of either sending Bolton to the United Nations on a recess appointment that will be reviled by Democrats as extra-constitutional, or accepting defeat. This outcome hardly seemed possible two months ago when Dodd, long seeking improved relations with Fidel Castro's Cuban dictatorship, renewed an old complaint about Bolton's disclosure as undersecretary of state of Castro's bioweapons development. Sen. Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee who seldom shuns a confirmation fight, eagerly joined Dodd.

Not much has been said lately about Cuba or Bolton's conservative outlook, neither of which is good grounds for denying confirmation. Dodd still complains Bolton is hard on subordinates ("Mr. Bolton was a very driven individual when he sought to get his way with underlings," the senator said Thursday).

Seeking a way to justify preconceived opposition, Dodd and Biden seized on the executive branch's refusal to give the Senate what it wanted. The issue, so obscure it is difficult for the non-senatorial mind to grasp, goes to Bolton having requested intelligence intercepts. Dodd demands the names of U.S. officials listed there whom Bolton might have intimidated.

Sen. Pat Roberts, the Intelligence Committee chairman, reviewed the intercepts and reported to Dodd they were "vanilla" and did not affect the confirmation fight. Roberts originally thought his Democratic vice chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, agreed. But that was before Democratic leaders got hold of Rockefeller and turned him around.

So much of this is dishonest Kabuki. If the Democrats are so convinced in the rectitude of their positions, why this eternal obfuscation about what those positions actually are? Why do they routinely avoid substantive disagreements in favor of shadow-theater procedural whining?

They were against the Iraq War, to name an obvious example. But 90% of their arguments were about procedure and timing; i.e., we can't do this without the approval of the French/the UN, we can't do this now, etc. Why did so few of them step up to the plate and just say, "I am against this war on principle; it's bad policy and will end badly"?

Democrats maintain some of their appeal by concealing their actual beliefs. But it's a double-edged sword; there are a lot of voters who know that what they say isn't what they actually mean, and suspect that even New York Times-styled "moderates" are actually quite liberal.

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posted by Ace at 02:08 PM

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